Apple unveils interactive textbooks, revamped iTunes U

By Dennis Carter, Assistant Editor
January 19th, 2012

The iBooks 2 app is available for free.

Apple might make the heavy backpack an endangered species.

There won’t be much students can’t do with a few taps and swipes of their Apple iPads after the tech giant’s introduction of iBooks 2–a book store that now includes interactive textbooks–and an iTunes University app that could create a comprehensive school experience inside the popular computer tablet.

Apple officials confirmed Jan. 19 weeklong speculation that the company would jump into the textbook market during a press event at New York’s Guggenheim Museum, where Phil Schiller, Apple’s senior vice president of marketing, introduced the next iteration of the iBooks app, which for the first time will offer textbooks that start at $14.99 or less for high school students.

The iBooks 2 app is available for free in Apple’s Apps Store. Pricing for college textbooks wasn’t immediately available. Apple’s iBooks 2 will be stocked by publishing giants Pearson, McGraw-Hill, and Houghton-Mifflin Harcourt, which make up 90 percent of the U.S. textbook market.

Textbooks available on the iPad through the iBooks 2 app will have interactive photos, videos, and diagrams, along with 3D images that can be manipulated and rotated with a touch of the screen. Students can highlight sections of a digital book with the swipe of a finger and create digital index cards inside the book without leaving their current page.

Authors of iBooks 2 textbooks can continually update their content. Students, once they’ve purchased the digital book for their iPad, can view the updated versions with no charge, and can keep the book in their library indefinitely.

“It’s certainly something we’ve been dreaming about for a couple years,” said Bill Rankin, director of educational innovation at Abilene Christian University (ACU) in Texas, one of higher education’s most prominent users of Apple products. “It’s equivalent to the democratization that happened under Gutenberg. Digitized books are much different than digital books. [Apple] isn’t just offering digitized versions of print material. This is a new generation media object.”

The Apple announcement also introduced educators and textbook publishers to a free authoring tool for anyone who wants to create a textbook.

1 2 3 Read More »

3 Responses to “Apple unveils interactive textbooks, revamped iTunes U”

January 23, 2012

First let me say I am not an Apple hater. I use an iPad daily. It is a beautiful piece of technology and has already transformed the way millions of people use the web. But I have two major concerns with this plan. First, do we really want to tie so much of our educational content to one device from one manufacturer? It’s not the same situation as the fact that most schools use Microsoft Office; in this case the educational content is wedded to the device.

Second, according to multiple sources, if an author chooses to sell his or her work through Apple, they give up all rights to sell the work anywhere else. That means no Android, Nook, or Kindle versions allowed. It’s Apple’s way or the highway. The only way around this restriction is to offer the work for free. Now granted, that’s not very different from an exclusive deal with a traditional publisher, EXCEPT that again, the content is wedded to the device. Imagine publishing a paper textbook under a contract that, for instance, forbade schools to allow the books to go home with students, or required students to read them in only in the library.

Schools and content authors need to look very, very carefully under the hood of this deal before signing on, and in my opinion the educational community needs to tell Apple “Thanks, but no thanks” to the restrictive ebook EULA.

Besides the points mentioned above, I also wonder where the information used to create said text books is coming from: are they going in business with current text book companies who must be familiar with state and national standards, which must be covered by text books in K-12? How is the technology going to be regulated and aligned? How will it be funded? Will their be ‘choice’? How will teachers be trained to utilize and transfer teaching to this method? Etc. Etc.
I believe without a doubt, this is the wave of the future (I currently “teach” online courses-many pluses) because it will ultimately save money in many ways for state taxpayers. It is also the media which young people today are familiar with. Plus it will be easy to update texts, where now we often have to use outdated information and methods due to the cost of funding new text books. There is a possibility for professionals in the field to be integrated into some of the subjects, which would be invaluable. However there are also many many kinks to work out before it is a practical and useful tool for teaching and learning at public schools. We are at the beginning creating a new paradigm.